Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Excitement and Unwarranted Anxiety

So, now I have finally arrived at a day I almost never dared to dream would come true. Due to my tenacious attitude towards it, though, I knew it would happen. Now that it is here, it's a little surreal.

I've arrived at my last day of school.

Needless to say, I'm very excited about that and to finish this path that has fairly dominated 1/4 of my life up until now. My anxiety comes from a very minor thing and has been something that always brings anxiety in every class: finals. Now to most of you it will come to no surprise that I keep a spreadsheet of my grades throughout the semester and I know precisely how I'm doing based on the weights the teachers assign to homework, quizzes, exams, finals, etc. So a couple of weeks ago I came across a very rewarding realization on this class. With the way she will drop your lowest scoring exam or quiz, I cannot fail the class. That realization was a HUGE relief. It prompted an evening at home with a couple of beers and wanton videogame-based destruction via Borderlands with some friends. So now I arrive at finals time knowing that if I get a 21% on my final, I will get an A still.  Unwarranted anxiety?  ... yeah, thought so.

Adding to my levity will be that my teacher agreed that I could take the final early. So instead of taking my final on the Wednesday following the spring rafting trip (and stressing/worrying that I'm not studying for it), I'm taking it today, a week early. So there's stress in that I'm being tested on stuff she only just now covered this morning, but then again... I only need 21%

So cheers to all of you have suffered along with me in my quest that started back in the Spring of 2002 and listened to my ramblings.

To continue on to a Masters/Doctorate? Who knows... If I can convince the job to help pay for it, then it will be much easier for me to say yes, but for now: I NEED A BREAK!! River, here I come!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The long road to recovery begins...

     After getting the Camaro back, it was then time to start the long road to getting her all fixed up.  I'm starting with a good base in that there doesn't appear to be much in the way of body work that needs to be done.  I've seen pictures of the car during it's mini-restoration and am comfortable knowing that it is at least 95% complete.  I'm sure there are some body issues that will need to be addressed, but that will be later.  If I'm going to spend money on fixing the car, I would like it to be noticeable.  I've heard of body repairs costing a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars and there doesn't look like anything was done.  It removes some cancerous rust, but I would rather that money go into other areas if possible.  First things first though!  I needed to get the car down to Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido, a premier hot rod shop, and have them inspect the vehicle to let us know what needs to be done.
     Before I could do that, I was off to Wyoming with my Mom and sister to spend a week with family.  My grandma who is 95 is still a hoot and telling stories of how my mom and aunt were as kids.  I got to see my cousins Madrone and Lara whom I haven't seen in many years.  There was a trip to the lake just about a mile from my Aunt's house where we were staying.  Getting towed behind Lara's boat in a tube was a blast and I recommend it to anyone.  I got to show my sister Yellowstone and did a great disservice to her as she only really got to see the road in from the south, Old Faithful, and then the road out to the east.  Part of our little road trip included going to Cody.  I wanted to see an old west town and although Cody is no where near what it used to be, it still had some buildings in a museum type arrangement that made the trip there worth it.  I was gathering information and ambiance for the newly acquired Deadlands game and there was plenty of it up there.  Although I didn't get to crack the spine on the books too often while I was there, the books did make the trip.  I'd like to think that they were gathering the essence of the Old West while we were on our loop around the state.  The visit could have lasted a few more days were it my choice, but we all had work to get back to so we bid a "see you later" to the relatives and headed out.  My sister, Mom, and brother-in-law would be back in October.  I would not as I had the albatross that is school hanging from my neck.  That weight will be lifted in May 2011 though.
     Back in California in early July I wasted little time in getting the car into Hot Rods & Custom Stuff and I knew they would be taking good care of the car.  A few anxious days were spent wondering what would be found and how much it may end up costing to fix.  The word finally came in and Todd from the shop sent me their findings and we talked it over.  There were indeed some big safety issues to be dealt with.  She needed new brakes all around including the drums; new suspension in the front, oh and the fuel line was resting on the exhaust (umm... that could be bad, you think?).  There were various other items with wiring, alignment, etc.  One major item was the transmission.  Yeah, it's shot.  As long as you calmly accelerate it won't feel like it's going to fall apart.  Where the heck is the fun in that!?  I did end up getting a spare 4-speed (a 700-R4) and would be putting that in.  All-in-all not a bad prognosis considering she's a 42-year old car and I got it for the same price as others that are in horrible condition.  I told Hot Rods to get to work on the safety issues and I would attack the other items later.  Ultimately the car would be in the shop about a month.  Kari said she was getting an extensive mani-pedi.  I had a great distraction at this point, but you'll have to wait until next posting for those juicy details...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monsters and In-N-Out

Anticipation.  Excitement.  Nerves.  All these things and more were what I went through in the brief couple of weeks between agreeing to purchase the Camaro and when I could come pick it up.  I had easily convinced my sister Shannon to drive up there to haul her home (yes, the Camaro is a she).  Kari's parents had agreed to let us borrow their trailer.  Actually it was Paul, Kari's dad, who agreed since it was his trailer that he uses for hauling his tractors around.  So on June 19, we were all crashed on Marc and Holly's floor again.  Marc was out of town at the time so we didn't get to hang out with him, but Holly was a trooper and put up with us showing up late and leaving early.  On the way up, Shannon and I were both a little tired so I grabbed a Monster drink at a gas station (2 for $3) and gave her one.  She liked it.  A lot.  So, those of you who know my sister, she's a little on the bubbly/excited side of the scale most of the time.  The Monster put her in a state akin to the squirrel in Over the Hedge (Steve Carrell's character).  It was quite humorous.

The seller had agreed to meet at 7:00am in the morning and since we knew he had a potential slow day of travel we/I thought it best to start early, get her loaded and head south.  Atascadero is about 30 minutes north of San Luis Obispo, so we were up fairly early.  No problem for me as I previously mentioned, I was excited.  Shannon?  Well, she had Monster!  We met at the appointed time and worked with the seller to get her loaded up.  There was a little bit of planning and maneuvering to get her situated on the trailer correctly (as evident by my intense look of concentration and bewilderment and general "hmm" countenance).

Without too much trouble, I was able to guide her right up and onto her home.  Well, home for at least most of the day.

Much relief was had by all (I believe Kari's nerves were so shot by this ordeal that she had ulcer type symptoms for several weeks afterward.  However, kind readers, as you can see, she's resting quite peacefully now despite her attitude about being put on the trailer.

I remember it was a little chilly that morning but with all the adrenaline of the loading and the excitement of actually getting another Camaro, I really didn't care about the chill.  I worked with a quiet resolve at securing the car down at all four corners.  The seller was kind enough to lend us a set of axle straps to secure her even better which Kari and I sent back with a big thank you gift after we returned home.

As I was busy with the task of getting the car secure for travel, Kari got to do the fun part: paperwork.  Nah, she enjoyed it and since she did DMV paperwork for a living for a few years, I was more than happy to let her have at it.

Having securely attached the car to the trailer and double checking everything, the there was really only one thing to do:  take her out on the road towards home.

After everything was signed and everyone was happy with the results and about 45 minutes of loading, I shook the seller's hand and was ready for the journey homeward.

Of course, no journey, especially in (or with in this case) a classic muscle car is complete unless you stop at In-N-Out!  So, off the 101 at Seaward in Ventura, we had a logical break point for lunch.  I cannot tell you how many times we saw people slowing down to look at the car or kids plastered to the windows watching as the past.  There was one vehicle that passed us, slowed back down, a hand came out with a camera and then gave us the thumbs up sign before speeding away again.  Shannon was beaming the whole time since she envisioned everyone would be thinking it was her Camaro.  She is a little bitter that she's wanted one and hasn't had one and I'm on my second. =)

We finally arrived back home in the afternoon and found a relatively steady incline that we could easily drop her off and with only a minor issue of forgetting to take the chalks out, she was off with relatively little problem.  You can see in one of the pictures there's a slight "tire print" from where I was trying to back over the front wheel chalk and the metal there doesn't afford much traction.  After remedying that oversight, she slid right off.  It was very nice to drive her around the neighborhood for the brief time I had her off the trailer.  However, without knowing exactly what issues might exist, I didn't want to cause any expense repairs and therefore I drove her right up to the house and into the garage.

The next plan of action was to bring it to Hot Rods and Custom Stuff in Escondido for them to do a four-hour inspection to let us know all that was wrong.  Boy, was that a list.  Manageable, but still lot of stuff on there.  One I already knew would be there:  the transmission (Powerglide) was pretty well shot and needed to be rebuild/replaced.  I had told the seller I was planning on putting in a 700r4 and he threw in a 700r4 core that he didn't need anymore so that would be a couple hundred bucks I could save right there!  I couldn't do too much the following weekend with her as I was going to be on my way to Riverton, Wyoming for a few days on vacation with my Mom and sister.  Actually, we were in Pavillion more than we were in Riverton, but that's the closest "big" city.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Summer '10

Part of me had forgotten something.  Something that was painful to lose so it's better to not think of it too much.  So maybe it's not so much of forgetting than suppressing memories.  Kari jarred me out of my joyous lassitude after a trip to a car show in the spring of 2009.  We had gone to the Good Guys Del Mar Nationals in April 2009 and up until and including that trip going to car events just dredged up that painful realization that I had sold my car that I loved from high school, my 1968 Camaro.  In hindsight, selling it was the right decision, it needed much too much work for me to be able to handle.  At the time, parts were hard to come by as well (pre internet commerce explosion).  So when Kari asked if I wanted to get another car, it took a bit of convincing myself that it's something we could do again.  Now that the final piece of the puzzle was obtained: owning a house where I could work on it, I was ready to get back into the game.  This happened in late 2009 and we started looking.

eBay picture
In early June of 2010, Kari found 1968 Camaro for sale on eBay.  After looking at the photos, considering the price (lower than we've seen elsewhere and for more car), I decided to call the seller.  We agreed to come up and take a look at it.  One familiar car trip later saw Kari and I at Marc and Holly's for the evening where we would leave from in the morning to check out the car in Atascadero just north of San Luis Obispo.  I looked over the car and looked at all the trouble spots where the first generation Camaros all have issues and didn't see any problems.  The body was straight, no rust visible except for the roof pieces where the headliner attaches (all easily replaced).  Going up there was the right decision as the seller was willing to take an addition $1000 off the price and also threw in a core for the 700r4 transmission I was going to be putting in it to replace the 2-speed Powerglide (which is on its way out).  I gave the seller some money as a down to secure the purchase and we headed back home with very wide grins.

(Yes, happy... and yes, I know: 1967 tail lights on a 1968)

 My Camaro has returned home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Return

Well, well, well... hmm. It certainly has been a long time since the last posting. I knew when I set this up that might and probably would happen. So, instead of feeling bad about the lack of posts and feeling that it amounts to some kind of failure, I've decided to consider it a validation of my awesome powers to presage the event and now look upon it as telling myself "I told you so".

However, kind readers, I am going start posting again and will use this venue as an avenue (see what I did there, eh?) to just post in general what is going on with me. So, gone are just the updates on house projects (which have continued despite the lack of posting the results) and in are some more exciting things as well. Well, they're more exciting to me anyway and since this is my blog, I'm doing what I want dammit!

To do justice to my subsequent postings I'll need to have access to a few photos which are not stored here, but are at home and I'll work on getting those up and tweaked for my posts. I'll start with a few "back dated" postings and quickly move to more recent events.

So the title of the post? Obviously a new post could fit the meaning nicely, but as some of my followers like to do, there are two meanings and it provides a hint to what my next, meatier post will pertain.

Stay tuned! (love those double entendres)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Welding, Grinding, and 5Ks

Ok, I know I said I would be timelier with updates, but unless you're reading this within a few minutes of me posting it, then you may have the same excuse/reason I have: you're busy.
I have a few moments of respite before my next semester starts so I thought I would throw my last big project for the house up here and maybe a hint of what's to come (hopefully). The last update left us half way finished with the gate. Well, I'm happy to report that it's complete as of the end of May. Right, right, that was 3 months ago and the start of my summer break from school, blah, blah, blah. I have my reasons (couldn't find the pictures being one of them).

The big thing I got out of the project was now I know how to weld. Well, at least I know some of the basics and my welds were getting better after having to do 24 of them per gate side. Three things I learned about wire-fed welding: Gloves are a necessity (not an option), the speed of the wire is your friend or a deeply despised enemy, and finally that the light from the welder WILL give you a sun burn so wear long-sleeves. About grinding: If you weld well, you don't have to grind. The more you need to grind your welds, the more practice you need welding. All-in-all a very worth-while skill to have and I'm very thankful from my Dad and Steve's help for the pointers and not laughing at me too much or at least so I couldn't hear.

There was much work with getting the frame of the gate constructed and welded together. The next step was to wipe it down and prime them and paint them the final color: white. Here is when another time thief conspired against me. Most times I had available to paint, it was too windy. Finally after a month or so of waiting I just started. I must say, waiting for a non-windy day for spray painting would have been much less maddening. After a couple of days of priming, waiting for paint to dry and then painting a couple of coats the gates were ready and that's when I call my Dad and Steve back to help. The process of removing the old gate when remarkably quickly (regretably so fast that I don't think pictures were taken) and next start the mounting of the gate portions to their respective hinges. We opted for welding the hinge to the gate as that is more permanent and sturdy than just a bolt. I took a few extra minutes to weld shut some holes in the hinges to eliminate any issue with standing water. After the gates were mounted, I took a small strip of wood and screwed it with non-rusting self-tapping screws creating a fascia board of sorts to which I could mount the fence boards. A short time later, the gate was finished!

In other, maybe less interesting, but still about me news: I've started back into the fitness after taking about 8 months off and thinking that since I was eating right and exercising that I could relax that train of thought. I must say that I was wrong. The weight does come back when you stop the exercise and eat what you want for a few months. It wasn't horrible, but I did notice it and for the past few months have been turning up the dial for the exercise and maintaining the healthy eating. The weight loss is slow, but steady (only about 5 pounds in 3 months), but I've lost about 2-3% body fat so there is some good progress there. Another change from my prior exercise regimn that I'm doing is that I'm doing my cardiovascular around my neighborhood and not at the gym. One thing I found out is that my normal jogging pace is about 20% faster outside than on the treadmill so I'm getting more out of my time jogging. I've pushed the distance and pushed for doing the shorter distances quicker resulting in interval training. Now, keep in mind, this is from the same person that hated any kind of jogging in high school and didn't know much about how to pace yourself for jogging distances. My HS mile times were routinely around 9 minutes. I'm up to 3.5 miles non-stop for distance. The recent heat waves have put a damper on my attempt to run it with any type of pushing for speed. Two weeks ago, I entered my first 5K run and had a few goals for this. Firstly, I wanted to finish and I wanted to finish without walking any portion. The second goal that I may have had little control over myself was that I was hoping to finish in the top 50% of the racers and in top half of my age bracket. I must say I was successful and reached everyone of those goals! In fact, out of the 58 males between 35 and 39, I finished in 18th place. You can see the stats (and pictures of me on the course!) here: (Do a search for race bid 10146 for the 5K). Those results definitely aren't going to win any medals, but this was a very significant achievement considering what my health status was a few years ago. I drug Kari down there with me and she was very supportive and I loved having her cheer me on when I started and she looked so happy when I finished. It really gave me a boost of energy having her there. I hope she can make it to more of these events with me. I'm doing my next 5K in October for the Light the Night Against Crime and I've conscripted a couple of friends to run with me. Gradually I will be increasing my mileage and am working towards doing a half-marathon hopefully in April or possibly late January, if I can get the training down (10-weeks, hard work). Stay tuned for an update to a December charity request from me for another 5K; either in the form of joining me on the 5K or chipping in for a worthy cause.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Food Poisoning and Chinese Power Tools

So the ol’ blog here hasn’t seen much action from me, and that isn’t entirely my fault (even though I’m the only one that can post). So, after my glorious and self-gratifying accomplishment of hacking apart my bathroom wall to insert a metal box with a mirror on it (see previous entry from medicine cabinet installation) as a surprise for Kari while she was away on her first business trip I apparently ate something with a touch of The Nasty. Tuesday (2/10) started normally enough with me having my workout before school. But during class, my stomach didn’t feel all that great. So, before heading straight into work, I thought I would stop by the house and take a swig of pink, chalky, bismuthy, vile liquid to settle my stomach. Well, I never left the house. For the next 4 hours I spent equal times either in bed or in the bathroom trying to guess if I had to kneel in front of the toilet or sit on it (or both). Hmm… I don’t think I’ll be able to pick up Kari at the airport. She happened to call shortly after my first bout of porcelain yodeling and she just happened to be in a fish market and wanted to know what type of smoked salmon I wanted since I had asked her before leaving to get some. Well, you can guess that with the current state of my stomach, I really didn’t want to think about that choice at all. I told her my current situation and told her that she’d need to contact her mom to get a ride from the airport later that evening. I returned to my shivering and dashing to the bathroom right afterwards. OK, sparing the details, I was laid up for a couple of days and my muscles were so wore out afterwards that I was in no mood to tackle any projects that weekend. However, that didn’t stop me from cleaning out the garage and actually having enough room for Kari and I to both park in it! Sure, we couldn’t get out of our cars, but there’s enough room for both of them in there! Ok, that was to be the extent of any projects that weekend. However, some light had been shone on a possible project to come soon during my throes of agony earlier: my dad had called and based on some plans I had drawn up to replace my current side gate with a metal framed one had priced the 2-inch square tubing and had come up with a very reasonable figure. So, after cleaning the garage and noting I had enough space to store interim progress on the gate pieces, I called my dad and gave him the green light to get the metal.

The next weekend on the 21st, my dad came up with some welding equipment and metal cutting tools. My brother-in-law, Steve, was to show up shortly after with the metal tubing. So, my dad shows up around 9:30 (early for him, as I think his bed time can sometimes be just a few hours before this) and we start laying out the equipment. Lo and behold, he’s donating one of his small welders to me and will be teaching me how to weld! This will be a very useful skill in my new role as a home owner I’m quite sure. About 30 minutes later, Steve shows up and we unload the three 20-foot lengths of 0.090 wall thickness, 2-inch square steel tubing. After a few minutes of discussing the plans and defending choices I made arbitrarily on the plans and changing a few others, we decide to get work. Steve had to take off and actually go to a paying gig, but not a big deal, this was not a major project by either my dad’s or Steve’s estimation. Today’s task would be to create the two frames for the gates and then paint them to seal them from the moisture to prevent rust. We measured our top pieces and made the first few cuts. The cutting on my dad’s metal chop saw was slow going so he decided to change to a new cutting disc that was a little larger and we started again. This time the cut went much better. However, as we were nearing the end of cutting off the end at a 45° angle (the second cut after changing the disc), the saw started to slow down no matter how hard I squeezed the trigger and then I saw the magic smoke come out of the motor housing. Well, this was just no good. My dad at this point, PC as ever (as some of you know), started extolling the virtues of foreign-made equipment especially Chinese. He wasn’t too upset as he only paid $20 for this particular tool. So, after a few minutes of discussion, we decided to pack everything into the garage and head to Home Depot to look for a replacement. There weren’t too many choices, but the ones we did see were about $200. He said he was going to see if he can find one on eBay or something for less. Now, at this point, I’m thinking he already learned not to go “cheap”, but I’m not going to point that out to someone who’s donating time and teaching me something to boot. As it turns out, my friend Taylor’s family has a mill shop and he mentioned that he could loan one his to me for the job if my dad can’t find a replacement. So I got that going for me … The saga will continue probably on 3/7.

Tomorrow will see my first Physics 301 (Digital Electronic) test and I’m a little anxious about it. I feel comfortable with the material, but I don’t know how the instructor tests, so we’ll see. It’s a mixture of hands-on circuit building and then some problem solving exercises. It shouldn’t be too bad. So far the work we’re doing in the class is very interesting. I’ve built a 4-bit parallel full adder circuit with 2’s-complement correction on the fly with LEDs for its binary sum, overflow, and an LED to indicate whether the result is a negative number not. It’s a great thing to be able to add and subtract numbers from -16 to 15 with just TTL chips, a 5-volt DC power supply, some resistors, and a whole bunch of wire. Yeah… now I can have the machine do that part for me! One less worry! My other class on the history of early modern Europe is still interesting as well. We’ve been reading about remission requests (pleas to the king of France for grace to avoid execution) in 16th century France and I’m now starting to read about witchcraft and the legislation behind the accusations. Lots of seemingly unrelated issues that are all tied together by social and legal thoughts of the day. Interesting…

Well, as long as I don’t have any more of The Nasty, I’ll be posting again soon. This weekend may not see much in the way of house work as we’ll have guests all day on Saturday.